When school turnarounds backfire: North Carolina’s effort offers a cautionary tale

Matt Barnum’s Chalkbeat article referenced in the title examines state efforts to provide support and resources to poor-performing schools.  Barnum writes,

A few years ago, North Carolina school officials looked at a group of the state’s struggling schools and decided: we need to help.

State officials designed a turnaround strategy for those 75 schools, which were largely rural and served mostly low-income students of color. They dispatched education department staffers to analyze what was going wrong and make a plan, and then sent coaches to work with teachers and principals to improve instruction.

Their approach would seem innocuous at worst and genuinely helpful at best.

But the results look quite different. The program actually caused test scores to fall modestly and teacher turnover to rise sharply at those schools, according to new research.

Barnum asked state officials to weigh in.  The response was discouraging.  “Deanna Townsend-Smith, the North Carolina state board of education’s director of operations and policy, isn’t convinced the program didn’t work.”

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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